God did not cause the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
Daniel says: “The Most High rules in the kingdom of men” (Daniel 4:17). Paul echoes this, declaring: “There is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God” (Romans 13:1).
But this is contradicted by the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Prince of this world
This world is actually under the power and control of Satan (1 John 5:19). Contrary to what Paul says, Satan claims to be the one who appoints the authorities that exist in the world; and Jesus does not contradict him (Luke 4:6). Jesus says: “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). Furthermore, he identifies Satan as the ruler of this world (John 14:30). The Lord himself acknowledged to Satan concerning Job: “Behold, all that he has is in your power” (Job 1:12).
This explains why Jesus asked his disciples to pray that God’s will be done on earth (Matthew 6:10). The affairs of men are antithetical to the kingdom of God. Jesus said to Peter: “Get behind me, Satan! You are an offense to me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Matthew 16:23).
God is only responsible for what happens in his kingdom. While the world is full of sorrows; the kingdom of God has “fullness of joy” (John 16:20-22). But God will ultimately destroy those who destroy the earth (Revelation 11:18).
God and natural disasters
In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, Jesus provides the most graphic picture of God’s relationship with this world. He says, from God’s point of view, this world is the realm of the dead (Luke 15:24). He presents it as a “far country;” lost and isolated from God.
Jesus says: “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. For the earth yields crops by itself” (Mark 4:26-28).
This means while God is the first cause of everything, he is not responsible for second causes. He created the world then put it on “auto-pilot” so that it now operates “by itself.” He “does not know how” must be understood metaphorically as denoting God’s deliberate detachment from the operations of the world-system.
Good and evil are not factors in the laws of nature. God is not in the storms and earthquakes of this world (1 Kings 19:11-12). They happen “naturally.” God did not cause the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. When a great windstorm arose that nearly capsized the boat with Jesus and his disciples, Jesus “rebuked” the wind (Mark 4:37-39).
God’s role in the world
Isaiah and Amos insist God is the architect of calamities (Isaiah 45:7; Amos 3:6). However, Jesus maintains calamities and disasters operate independently from God. He says God does not punish sin by means of disasters (Luke 13:1-5). Moreover, he says sin is not the determinant of providence (John 9:1-3). Bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. Jesus says God is so non-discriminatory: “He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45).
This contradicts the traditional grounds for thanksgiving. It means God does not favour some by saving them from calamity, and punish others by allowing them to suffer. God did not protect Jesus from being killed. Neither does he shield his children from persecution in the world (John 15:18-21). Ecclesiastes 9:11 answers the American 911 tragedy: “the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but time and chance happen to them all.”
Jesus also maintains our infirmities and sicknesses come not from God but from the devil (Luke 13:16). He confirms God as our healer (Matthew 4:23-24). God is not the author of evil, but he sometimes overrules evil for good (James 1:13-15; Genesis 50:20). It is the devil who steals, kills and destroys. But our God gives life (John 10:10).
God only rules in the kingdom of God and in the affairs of the children of God. He intervenes in the world discretionally at the behest of his children who are in the world but are not of the world (John 17:15-16). He delivers us from temptation and keeps us from the evil one (Matthew 6:13). He guides us by his Holy Spirit, ensuring that we are not at the mercy of Satan (John 16:13-14).
Moreover, Jesus says to sons of God: “Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you” (Luke 10:19).